TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Michael Sharpe and his wife made Florida their new home last year, hoping to make a better life.
The pandemic turned that new life upside down.
“Now I’m facing eviction, I’m facing getting my car repossessed, and me and my wife getting put out of our home,” he told 8 On Your Side via Zoom.
Sharpe says he’s tried and failed to get unemployment benefits since losing his Tampa hotel job in March. Without the assistance, he can’t pay rent…and his landlord, he says, is losing patience.
“I come home, and I see a notice on my door,” Sharpe lamented.
He’s not alone.
Within a week of Florida’s eviction and foreclosure ban expiring Oct. 1, 8 On Your Side found 272 evictions filed in Hillsborough county court alone. As of Friday, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office reports it’s received 185 notices to serve. 56 have already been served.
“Mass evictions in Florida will not help anybody,” said Ida Eskamani with the Florida Housing Justice Alliance, a statewide coalition that represents tenant and homeowner groups. “Mass homelessness will not help anybody.”
Eskamani and the alliance urged Governor Ron DeSantis to extend the statewide moratorium that expired at the start of the month. In lieu of that, they’re calling on state leaders to help tenants and landlords cover their losses.
The CDC issued a nationwide ban on evictions and foreclosures last month in order to keep people in their homes and prevent the spread of COVID-19. By providing this declaration form, tenants and homeowners directly impacted by COVID-19 should be protected through the end of the year.
However, the CDC order is facing a legal challenge in federal court and could be struck down. The foreclosure protection also only applies to those with federally-backed mortgages.
While she calls moratoriums “crucial,” Eskamani also described those measures as short term solutions for a long term problem.
“At the end of this year, folks are still going to owe thousands in unpaid rent,” she explained. “So right now, we’re just kicking the can down the road.”
A road that doesn’t go much farther, for people like Michael Sharpe.
“We are working class people,” Sharpe said. “We deserve better.”
The Hillsborough County Department of Social Services reports that since Oct. 1, it’s also received a surge of calls from landlords seeking any leftover rental assistance for tenants to get caught up as a last-ditch effort to avoid eviction.
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